Joint Pee Wees/Little League Lease Likely to Be Extended

Parents and players with South Kitsap Pee Wees turned out in force Tuesday before the Port Orchard City Council. Members of the youth football club were anxious about the upcoming renewal of a Givens Center ball field lease they hold jointly with South Kitsap Western Little League.

The lease expires at the end of April. The council will discuss renewal of the joint lease at a work study meeting April 20th. They’ll vote on the lease April 27.

The council on March 9 allowed the Little League club to assume the lease from South Kitsap Babe Ruth, which folded early in March after 50 years in operation.

According to an e-mail distributed to Pee Wee members and local media on March 29, some Pee Wees were worried the city intended to boot them off the field, which they have shared with Babe Ruth for a number of years.

Cindie Morrill, a Pee Wee parent, in the e-mail urged other parents, coaches and players to show their support for the football program. “SK Pee Wees has been informed by the City of Port Orchard that if the community does not show support for Pee Wees, we may not be allowed to share with Western Little League as we had done in the past with Babe Ruth.”

The e-mail was forwarded by another Pee Wee supporter, hotrod366@peoplepc.com, with the comment, “Our mayor, Mr (Lary) Coppola does not like football and does not want to renew the lease. He wants to change the community play field “TO BASEBALL ONLY” Someone please help pull this guys head and the city councils out of their ?”

Apparently it was like that game of telephone we used to play as kids, where players sit in a circle and whisper a message in the ear of the person next to them. By the time the message goes full circle, it’s usually pretty well mangled.

The flames may have been fanned by a dropped word typo (since corrected online) in a weekly publication’s article on the shared lease.

What the mayor did say at the March 9 meeting, in his characteristically blunt style, is that if the two clubs can’t get along, they’d both lose the lease. The city has had to referee conflict between Babe Ruth and the Pee Wees in the past, and Coppola was having none of it from the new arrangement.

“What I told them then and what I’m telling you now is, you will make this work and you will get along with Pee Wees or you’ll both be gone,” he told Bob Showers of Western Little League.

The one council member who on March 9 voted against transferring the lease to Western Little League was Fred Olin, chairman of the city’s public property committee. Olin at the time said he thought the two uses were not compatible. But by Tuesday’s meeting, he said the committee was satisfied that the joint lease would be workable after all. “We felt we had a resolution worked out pretty well with Western Little League and Pee Wees,” Olin said. “I don’t see any problem.”

On Tuesday, officials from both organizations vowed to cooperate with each other as they share the field, even though their respective needs may sometimes conflict. Pee Wees reseeds the field after their season, for example, but the grass may not be far enough along to play on by the time Little League holds tryouts in early spring. All part of the details they’ll have to work out.

“I don’t think you have to worry about us not working together again. We’re all here for the kids,” said Pee Wees President Chuck Burns.

Alas, much ado about nothing.

The Pee Wees’ passion for their program (which includes basketball and cheer) was clear from comments made by parents and coaches on Tuesday.

Single parent Dorothy Williams said Pee Wee football was a godsend to her and her sons, one of whom landed a full-ride scholarship to play football for Eastern Washington University. “I don’t know what we would have done without it,” Williams said.

Basketball coach Ron Smith said Pee Wee programs give kids who may not make the cut on school teams a chance to get in on the action.

“I think everyone’s missing the point here. This is for the kids,” Smith said. “I think everyone’s getting lost in this battle.”

To which Coppola replied, “I’d like to say I couldn’t agree with you more.”

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